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This is related to a question about English noun sequences. The reason I'm asking is because of an apparent inconsistency in which constructions such as peanut butter, climate change or world war are translated in various online Esperanto reference sources.

In the Vikipedio, peanut butter and climate change are translated, respectively, as "Arakida Butero" and "Klimata ŝanĝo", that is, with modifying adjectives. Strangely, the pattern isn't followed in the article on world war, "mondmilito", where the noun adjunct is incorporated, with suffix removed, as part of a compound noun. A modified version of this pattern is used for olive oil, translated as a hyphenated compound, "oliv-oleo". In the article itself, however, the word is spelled without a hyphen, as in the section on "Nutrado kaj sano":

"Olivoleo, ĉu "plej pura" aŭ "pura", estas riĉplena je vitaminoj A, D, E kaj K."

On the other hand, in Vortaro.net, the preferred way to translate peanut butter is to turn it into a single compound word, "ternuksbutero".

So what is the correct — or at least preferred — way to translate noun adjuncts? This is my biggest stumbling block in my attempt to write literary Esperanto (I'm working on what could possibly be a novella).

My own preference is for compound words, either arakido-butero or the more elegant-looking ternuksbutero, since I read arakida butero as "peanutty butter".

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Esperanto is an international language already in use, so the correct way is not to look only at the English form of the term, but to:

  • first check whether a suitable Esperanto term is already in use for the intended meaning (and whether makes sense sufficiently and/or has become idiomatic due to very regular use). For this, consult both
    • dictionaries, especially PIV and ReVo
    • the Esperanto text collection "tekstaro"
  • if no term yet exists, try to construct one according to Esperanto's word building rules. Try to capture the meaning of the concept rather than the verbatim meaning of the parts of the corresponding English term. For this, it can be useful to have a look how other "natural" languages build their term(s) for the specific concept.
  • only if that fails or leads to completely impractical results, consider introducing a new root, based on the Esperanto's source languages and avoiding collisions with existing roots and existing and possible constructed words

Be aware that Vikipedio (Esperanta Wikipedia) doesn't always use the most proper terms, not even in the article titles. This is due to the fact that some authors either ignore the above "rules" or are not sufficently experienced in Esperanto yet to be well able to follow them.

try to construct one according to Esperanto's word building rules

Understandably, it shouldn't matter for this what term English 'chose'. "peanut butter", "peanut-butter", "peanutbutter" and "peanutty butter" could all be valid English terms for the same food and it's kind of arbitrary (from today's perspective - there is of course a historical and etymological reason) that the only factually correct English term for it currently is "peanut butter".

In Esperanto you're often more free: I'd argue that in Esperanto

  • arakida butero
  • arakid-butero
  • arakidbutero

all not just could be valid terms, but factually are valid terms, all describing the same concept, and can be used interchangeably and will usually be readily understood. (The same applies to the olive oil example.)

About "mondmiloto", I'd argue that this is a fixed term. It's not just any war that concerns the "world", but one of the (yet two) World Wars. (It's a fixed term in many other languages, too. In English and Spanish that is indicated by the capitalization.) I don't know whether in Esperanto (like in English) fixed terms are more likely to be written as one single word. (E.g. as "web site" is becoming / has become more and more of a fixed term, the spelling "website" is becoming / has become more popular.)

I also don't know whether there yet is a fixed Esperanto term for "climate change" or whether you're free to use any of the 3 forms (adjektival, with hyphen or single combined word).

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When I encountered this use of ”adjectivized” nouns I also found it a little bit strange. If you keep in mind that adding an -a to a noun root means ”related to...” I believe you will get the hang of it.

To me there are three levels of describing a noun using a different noun, the first one being the strongest, most specific bond and the last being the weakest and most general:

compound

  • e.g. arakidbutero

  • often have an agreed upon definition in a dictionary and describes a specific type of thing

  • the first root works like a description of a quality that the thing has and this quality is constant

adjective

  • e.g. arakida butero

  • if the root of the adjective is a noun it means ”related to...”. The relation can vary and is understood based on context

  • if the root of the adjective is an adjective, it can describe a temporary quality

adjective with -ec

  • e.g. arakideca butero (peanutty butter)

  • used with noun root in adjective to show that the thing is not directly related to the adjective root, but somehow similar or shares a quality, (PMEG)

A glumarko is ”algluebla bildeto, sen poŝta valoro.” (PIV) or in English ”sticker”. A glua marko can be a sticker, but it can also be a mark on a bottle of glue, or a mark on a material to show where to put glue. A glueca marko can be any mark that attaches to materials, possibly because it is covered in honey and if you wipe that off, it is no longer sticky.

When it comes to adjective roots, lernu.net mentions that dikfingro means ”thumb” but dika fingro can be used for any thick finger. On the other hand, a compound like belfloro is incorrect, because no flower is constantly beautiful.

In conclusion I think that if you want to write about something specific, you can create a compund or even better find an already existing one. If you want to include a more general concept without fear of including more than what you thought of exactly, you can use an adjective. Lastly if you wish to clarify that the thing is not made of or else directly related to the describing noun, you should add -ec.

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  • I think this answer is more accurate (and possibly more helpful and to-the-point w.r.t. the question) than mine. Well explained! – das-g Jul 26 '19 at 22:17
  • Thank you for the support! It required a good amount of thinking and some researching. An interesting topic. – Antonia Montaro Jul 28 '19 at 8:23

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